publication date: Nov 30, 2011
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Though the Globe and Mail wrote recently of the "growing
army of street canvassers, or face-to-face fundraisers
," most Canadian
charities are taking a "wait and see" approach to the channel that's proven so effective
for entry-level donations in Europe.
The term includes not just street canvassing, but
door-to-door and mall canvassing as well. "Today, face-to-face is the most
cost-effective fundraising channel for signing up large numbers of monthly
donors," asserts Bryan McKinnon
of Public Outreach Fundraising
Toronto canvassing firm.
The payback comes not from the initial gift, which may be
modest, but with the cumulative value of years of monthly giving - the real
goal of F2F.
A Canadian success
lauds the impact of F2F fundraising on her
organization. "This year alone, $5 million has gone right to the field because
of conversations people have had with street or door-to-door canvassing. I want
people to know that we couldn't have raised that $5 million otherwise."
Davies readily allows that the worldwide agency's successful
European experiences helped convince her board to launch the tactic in 2002. It
works for MSF, she believes, because people recognize the charity's name and
understand its mission.
Making it work for
Consider the pros and cons, she counsels, just as you would
for any other fundraising initiative. Make sure the firm adheres to the ethical
codes of the Association of Fundraising
and Imagine Canada
and in particular that they don't pay commissions, which both organizations
prohibit. (Bonuses are another matter - AFP specifically approves them, while
Imagine Canada does not specifically disallow them.) Set goals, and hold both
yourselves and your supplier accountable for meeting them. Motivate the
canvassers with visits to your site, presentations at their site, and messages
from the field. And above all, make donor retention a priority.
AFP chair Andrea
of Calgary concurs with Davies' points. "If you're going to make
the investment, you can't do it as a one-off," she states. "Have a plan to
monitor and address attrition, as you would in every other channel."
F2F is very much in its infancy in Canada, though there's a
huge body of knowledge in some other countries, she continues. "We need to
build on that in a way that fits the various cultures in Canada."
Imagine Canada emphasizes the need to build donor relationships and avoid
short-term thinking. That's why both organizations prohibit commissions. "The concern
is that commission-based fundraising is more likely than other types of
compensation to lead to excessive private benefit," she explains.
As far as Barr and McManus know, there's no research on
Canadians' attitude towards F2F fundraising. But the online comments on the
Globe's article are strongly negative, even contemptuous, offset by some
persistent supporters including one who identified himself as a former
canvasser for Public Outreach.
Of all the posts, perhaps this one is most telling:
We live in an
antisocial society where people are afraid to talk to each other, so it's
natural that the public feels a bit uncomfortable being approached. However, it
is funny that people aren't embarrassed to publicly admit on this forum their
contempt for people raising money to save lives. People spend $5 on a drink
from Starbucks and don't think twice. Why is being asked to help save a life so
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